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The Do’s and Don’ts of Resumes & Cover Letters


HPP Membership Chair, Jennifer Joseph, presents best practices at the resume and cover letter workshop.

The Haitian Professionals of Philadelphia (HPP) hosts professional development workshops and networking events designed with your career and professional development in mind. On Thursday, November 21, 2019, HPP hosted a workshop on resume and cover letter writing that was open to members and the general public. HPP is very grateful to our guest speakers Katherine Johnston and Jennifer Joseph for their wonderful presentations on Do’s and Don’ts of Resumes and Cover Letters. In Do’s and Don’ts of Resumes and Cover Letters, they shared some best practices when crafting a resume and cover letter in search of career advancement. Below is a brief summation of what they presented.


Employers and hiring firms use resumes and cover letters to screen who they let in the door for an interview. As such, having a top-notch resume and cover letter is key to making a first impression on your potential home company. To make a good impression, your resume and cover letter must be polished and must effectively communicate your accomplishments along with your skills and strengths. Your resume represents the value that you bring to your potential home company. Hence, making sure that your resume and cover letter are tailored to the position you are seeking is crucial. When drafting your resume, keep these pointers or dos and don’ts in mind:

  • Do include the following sections in your resume: header/professional tagline, profile/summary, skills, experience, education, professional development, affiliation/memberships, accomplishments/awards/recognition, publications, volunteer/community involvement, and military service as applicable.

  • Don’t use paragraphs but do use bullet-points to list your skills, job duties, and responsibilities. This will make your resume easier to read, and employers will find the skills they are looking for easier too. With that in mind, list the most important or impactful skills and job duties related to the position sought first.

  • Do be Consistent! Use consistent verb tense, formatting within the resume, and between your resume and cover letter.

  • Do use Problem, Action, Results (PAR) statements and key words when describing your skills, job duties and responsibilities. Visit http://www.onetonline.org for a universal sample of key words.

  • Do use the appropriate resume type. The most common type of resume is the reverse chronological resume. In this resume you emphasize your work history to show your advancement, upward or lateral, within your career or profession in reverse chronological order, starting with your current/most recent position. Generally, you only need to list the last 10 years of work, professional, and/or volunteer experience. However, you may list more than 10 years, if you are looking to advance in a niche field or career. When you do that, ensure that those experiences directly relate the skills required in the professional niche you are looking to advance in.

  • When you are newly graduated from school, have held various unrelated jobs in a short time period, have gaps in your employment history, have been in the same position for a long time, or are changing careers, use a functional resume. A functional resume emphasizes your skills, proficiency, and objectives over your employment history.

  • When considering multiple positions, a hybrid of the two approaches previously noted is recommended. A hybrid resume allows you to take the best elements from your skill set and employment history. In this way, you can put on display the connection between your skills and job duties/responsibilities. This type of resume also allows you to include any professional experience, e.g. apprenticeships, internships and volunteering, within a Professional Experience section. This format provides for more flexibility and fine-tuning, which is particularly useful across multidisciplinary fields.

  • Do create and submit a cover letter with your resume. When drafting a cover letter, create a position requirements and response outline. The response outline addresses the position requirements with your skills, experience and accomplishments. The opening paragraph must prove to your potential home company right away that you are who they seek. Use your response outline to tell your potential home company about the contributions you will be making to their bottom line. Don’t leave anything up to guesswork. Conclude by reiterating your qualifications and skills, indicating your plan to follow up, and thanking them for their consideration.

The presenters emphasized proper formatting for both resumes and cover letters. You want to keep both documents to one page each and use 12 font size letters. Do use sans serif fonts, such as Arial, Courier, Helvetica, Verdana, etc., in order to pass the Applicant Tracking Systems. Additional information on this topic and on careers and occupations generally, are available at the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop (www.CareerOneStop.org).

HPP Members benefit from professional development seminars and workshops, networking opportunities, cultural programming, and an avenue to give back to Haiti leveraging their profession. Please consider contributing to HPP's mission by making a tax-deductible donation today A donation of at least $50 makes you an HPP member for one year ($35 students). Complete your membership application today by visiting https://www.phillyhpp.org/registering.


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